The gaming industry is constantly changing and evolving. In 2023, the increased use of artificial intelligence and advances in slot and igaming technology affirmed that innovation is constant.
October’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas attracted more than 25,000 visitors. SBC’s conferences in Secaucus, New Jersey, Miami, and Toronto also drew record crowds.
FanDuel and DraftKings continued to vie for sports-betting dominance, commanding nearly 80% of all sports-betting revenue.
And in news that made all gaming operators take notice, MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment in September were victimized by separate cyberattacks.
What’s in store for 2024?
CDC Gaming Reports queried 19 notable gaming industry leaders to get a sense of what to expect. Here are their thoughts.
Table of Contents
- Dr. Laila Mintas, CEO, Dr. Mintas Consulting
- Gary Larkin, President, Koin
- Alex Dixon, CEO DRA, Q Casino
- Kelly Brooks, CEO, Quarter4
- Noah Acres, Acres Manufacturing
- Joseph Solosky, Managing Director of Sports Betting, NASCAR
- Bill Miller, President and CEO, American Gaming Association
- Brian Christopher, casino-gaming influencer, BC Slots
- Steve McAllister, Editor-in-Chief, Gaming News Canada
- Leighton Webb, Vice President & General Manager of iGaming and Sports Betting, PayNearMe
- Jonathan Michaels, Principal, Michaels Strategies
- Charlie Skinner, President, Marker Trax
- Cait DeBaun, Vice President, Strategic Communications & Responsibility, American Gaming Association
- Kirk Olson, SVP Sales, Sightline Payments
- Lawrence Shen, CFA, Principal, C3 Gaming
- Dan Kustelski, Co-Founder and CEO, Chalkline
- Deanne McKissick, Aristocrat Gaming Chief Supply-Chain Officer
- Bryan Price, Co-CEO and Founder, iProtekt
- Steve Ruddock, Publisher of the Straight to the Point
In 2024, we will continue to see a strong consolidation of business-to-consumer (B2C) operators in the U.S. market, a trend that is not new, but keeps getting more intensive in the overall U.S. landscape. Latest examples are the entrance of Fanatics and ESPN Bet, which have a clear advantage when it comes to funding, existing database, and brand awareness. I expect that there will be more giants like that evolving in the U.S. market in 2024.
In most of the U.S. states, a handful of strong brands will dominate the market, which makes it almost impossible for smaller B2C operators and their platform providers to survive — unless they find their niche in this competitive marketplace where they can differentiate.
What does this mean for innovation and the start-up space? It means they have less shots in the U.S. to grow and should start looking to take their innovation into new emerging markets or mature markets with more diversity.
The growing consolidation also means less variety for the user, which creates a risk that the offshore market will keep booming, as those markets will continue to serve customers innovative products that they want without having to stick to the rules — no taxes, better odds, no restrictions in terms of college sports, esports betting or igaming products. Especially as legislation goes slowly for both sports betting and igaming in the U.S., this environment will keep fueling the offshore markets.
It is a safe bet that major states like Texas or California won’t legalize sports betting or igaming in 2024.
As we approach 2024, the gaming industry is witnessing a significant shift toward cashless and digital payment solutions, reflecting broader technological advancements. This evolution is not just about convenience; it’s a transformation in how consumers engage with gaming platforms, driven by their growing preference for digital interactions in more and more facets of their lives.
Cashless gaming is more than a trend; it represents a fundamental change in the casino/player relationship that will eventually mirror the global transformation to digital payments that has evolved in so many other industries. It offers enhanced security and aligns with the digital habits of a new generation of players. This shift requires gaming operators to rethink their payment systems to provide seamless and frictionless experiences, ensuring a harmonious integration with players’ digital lifestyles.
As advocates for digital payments, our focus for the coming year will be shared between a continued emphasis on market education and advancing the player experience by eliminating complexities traditionally associated with digital transactions within retail gaming. Simplifying player onboarding with seamless pay/play interaction is key to unlocking the full potential of cashless gaming. We expect the industry will leverage broader payment-industry solutions and emerging technologies to create more immersive and engaging experiences, prioritizing the user experience along with enhanced security.
2024 promises to see digital payment solutions become more evident on the gaming floor, gaining more industry relevance, and establishing digital payment methods as an integral part of the gaming experience.
When Amazon loses interest in the healthcare industry, it will turn to gaming, sports betting, and land-based casinos in that order. Of the oligopolies, they’re most aligned with our industry as they embrace owning digital and physical assets. Integrated resorts buy a lot of “stuff” that Amazon sells and Jeff Bezos will have no problems getting licensed anywhere. Amazon Prime’s partnership with the NFL and Thursday Night Football puts it on a collision course with a fledgling sports-betting company or a land-based operator that should have shut operations in 2023. “Hey Alexa, put $100 on the Cowboys to cover. Use the platform with the best odds.”
Lastly, a couple of billion in value will be created by retail investors confusing the earnings that come from gaming versus the rest of Amazon.
Women’s sports will continue to drive growth and diversification in revenue streams via media, affiliate, or direct betting activity. Major sportsbooks in the U.S. witnessed extremely impressive bet-count increases for the WNBA from 2021 to 2022. Additionally, the 2023 Women’s World Cup final drew record global televised viewership. The market opportunity that exists will drive demand for new data and content, bringing the audience closer to the games, teams, and especially players. It’s an exciting frontier for the leagues, media, and sportsbooks as they deliver fresh experiences to diversified audiences ready to engage with female sports and their athletes.
I think 2024 and beyond will feature a growing recognition of the cost of wasted player time and the development of solutions to address this issue.
Assuming a $2 bet, 8% hold, and 10 games per minute, the average player minute is worth $1.60. Most players have a limited amount of time to spend on each visit. If a player has $100 in hand and one hour to play, the casino isn’t even expected to realize the player’s maximum spend potential, because at $1.60 per minute, 60 minutes of action only gets us to $96.
Things get worse if the player wastes time on non-revenue-generating activities, such as getting a player card, accessing cash, or using free play.
If you’re a casino operator, please take a few moments to estimate how many minutes your players wait in line each year and multiply that by $1.60. It’s going to be a big number and you’re going to want to do something about it!
I’m looking forward to seeing how the mainstreaming of natural language processing intersects with innovation in the sports-betting space. Punters have no shortage of statistics, data, and content engines to derive their betting decisions, but the ability to dive deep into multi-filtered analysis on one’s own isn’t intuitive or readily available. Whether an affiliate, league, or native-NLP company can have query engines available for punters to ask things like, “Build me a three-player parlay to score 25+ points tonight based on opponent’s defense” or “What is Daniel Ricciardo’s average finish at the Singapore Grand Prix after qualifying top 10?,” I believe there are multiple engagement, education, and commercial uses for this type of tool.
I also believe NLP can provide a value-add in another topic that has yet to be fully addressed in the U.S.: price sensitivity. The surveys and studies I’ve seen on U.S. punters indicate in no particular order that UI/UX, depth-of-market offerings, and promos come way above price in terms of why users utilize the sportsbook of their choosing. Having a tool that provides the different prices from different books for a parlay a punter entered in an NLP tool could be very valuable from a user perspective, but also more holistically in the transparency of parlay pricing.
2023 was a seminal year in our fight against illegal and unregulated gambling. Our coordinated effort to stop illegal gambling spurred action at the state and federal level, including:
- Bans in Kentucky and Virginia on “skill” machines.
- Enforcement to seize thousands of unregulated “skill” machines and stop faux fantasy operations in key states.
- Language in U.S. House of Representatives and Senate legislation directing the U.S. Department of Justice to act against all forms of illegal and unregulated gambling.
- Ongoing national and local media coverage of the size and threat of illegal gambling.
As we look to next year, the industry must build on this momentum, because we know these bad actors will continue to work every loophole to exploit customers, undermine regulation, and steal from communities.
At a state level, we will continue to spotlight the dangers of skill games with lawmakers, regulators, media, and consumers as skill-game manufacturers put millions of dollars into lobbying efforts to preserve their gray status. Grassroots campaigns by the legal industry in states like Pennsylvania provide a good blueprint to build on.
At the federal level, we must push for further action by policymakers on Capitol Hill and federal law enforcement. More than a decade ago on Black Friday, the U.S. government proved its power to act against offshore sites when it shut down illegal online-poker websites, seized their assets, and made arrests. We will push the federal government to take similar action against illegal offshore sportsbooks and online casinos.
With the full weight of the legal gaming industry behind our effort, I’m confident we will see continued significant progress against illegal gambling in 2024.
As an advocate for smokefree casinos for almost a decade, it’s an area I’ve been watching carefully. I believe 2024 is going to be a watershed moment for smokefree casinos.
As I write this, two key states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are closer than ever to passing legislation banning smoking in casinos. Casinos continue to permanently codify smokefree policies in place since the pandemic reopenings, such as Isleta in New Mexico.
We learned at G2E this year that of the casinos reporting revenue outside Nevada, the top seven were all smokefree, roughly half by business decision and half by state law. The argument that casinos will take a hit by eliminating smoking from indoor spaces doesn’t take into account changes in mindset that came with the pandemic. As the data shows, smokefree casinos can be quite successful.
Workers are also getting more organized, with groups like CEASE, and are advocating for change in a growing number of states. Rhode Island’s casinos are surrounded by smokefree casinos, yet workers there continue to have to fight for their health. Increasingly, legislators are listening and considering their arguments in the absence of leadership from their employers.
At this point, the dangers of secondhand smoke are clear (and have been for decades). The tide continues to turn toward a smokefree future with only 11.5% of the U.S. population smoking. Everyone in the U.S. who enjoys working in a smokefree environment should support these efforts to ensure equality for all.
Eight years ago, the provincial government in Ontario was told by lobbyists for regulated sports betting and online gaming that the new industry would deliver between $200 million and $250 million in annual tax revenue. In the 18 months since the regulated Ontario market launched in April 2022, close to $500 million has been generated for the province’s coffers on the backs of almost 50 licensed operators. And that doesn’t include an unprecedented $300 million in net profit for the digital-gaming business of the government-owned Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation from its 2022-23 fiscal year.
Add it all up and you have a gambling industry that’s doing business at the same level as New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
One of the key themes that we’ll see continue into 2024 is fraud mitigation and the growing role that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) play in reducing risk and fraud. Operators are aware that fraud is scaling parallel to the growth of mainstream online betting. With a larger volume of transactions come more opportunities for fraudsters, but scaling an internal risk-and-fraud team to meet this level of monitoring needs is likely impossible for most operators. That’s where AI and ML can be applied to detect patterns from large amounts of data, freeing up risk-and-fraud teams to focus on the necessary human decisions.
The tools that allow all operators — not just the larger and more established ones, but emerging operators as well — access to those AI/ML-based fraud-mitigation tactics will be crucial in the growth of the industry. We’ll see an upward trend of education on the ways AI and ML can assist with data management to alleviate the strain on internal resources, which is vital to the success of emerging operators. We’ll also see the integration of AI and ML technologies into many other back-end operations platforms that operators utilize and we’ll see operators come to expect those technology integrations as the standard in the near future.
2024 will be the year where the great responsible gaming reset begins. Since the PASPA decision in 2018, scores of new responsible gaming regulations have been put into place in the digital gambling world, such as limit-setting tools, advertising requirements, player notifications, and more. But the issue is that many of these tools don’t seem to work.
When you see data from Massachusetts that suggests the most widespread tool for responsible gambling is used by only 2.5% of players, it highlights the need for a shift in how we approach this issue.
As an industry, we need to find effective ways to ensure that players do play responsibly and to provide intervention and treatment options for those who struggle with their gambling. Ultimately, I think this will lead to operators taking a more proactive approach, particularly regarding the use of technology to identify problematic behavior and intervene where necessary.
We’ve seen internationally what occurs when the industry isn’t proactive on responsible gambling innovations — from affordability mandates and advertising restrictions to limited-deposit methods. Mitigating against gambling harm is critical and we need innovations to meet the needs of the industry in developing solutions that help players wager responsibly.
The rising demand for cashless transactions is driving trends that benefit both gamers and casino operators and this demand will take centerstage in 2024. The gaming-industry’s cashless-wagering landscape will undergo substantial enhancements, streamlining implementation through improved connections with CMS providers and vendors.
Establishing common rules and compatibility between operators and systems will be a primary focus. Historically, industry players have actively collaborated to set shared standards and this will continue to help move cashless forward, facilitating smoother communication and data exchange between diverse systems. This not only expedites integration, but also ensures seamless connectivity among various technologies.
Crucially, I anticipate enhancements in communication between cashless providers and other platforms. Creating flexible and straightforward integration paths into products will enhance the player experience by reducing processing times, resulting in faster app experiences.
We’re also likely to see increased partnerships between payment-solution vendors and cashless companies, leading to integrated solutions and improved cashless-wagering options for operators. These advancements, coupled with collaborations with existing CMS partners, app providers, and others, promise an enhanced overall player experience in 2024.
2024 will see significant improvements in cashless-wagering integrations, making the North American gaming industry more agile and responsive to the increasing demand for seamless and secure transactions. I believe several new casinos will go live with some form of cashless, while those already live will see increased adoption. Operators using data analytics will become more efficient in driving cashless engagement using loyalty and rewards as incentive to bring more players onboard.
We are five years into the greatest period of legal expansion in our industry’s history and our ability to strengthen responsible gambling in 2024 will prove critical for the industry’s long-term sustainability.
It’s an opportunity that raises big questions, among them:
• How do we build on individual approaches while unifying around common efforts?
• Can we move beyond status quo to drive meaningful changes?
• Where can we allocate our collective resources to make the greatest impact?
• How do we ensure a player-centric approach to RG?
• Where do we strengthen industry codes and evolve regulation?
Addressing these questions will require putting aside individual interests and prioritizing collaboration among operators and suppliers, academics, advocates, regulators, and other key stakeholders. It certainly won’t be easy, but our potential success will be transformative for years and decades to come.
This is not a singular issue either. From tackling illegal gambling to legalizing online gaming or applying technology, AI and data, responsible gambling is an integral consideration for broader industry issues and trends.
I’m energized by what’s ahead in the new year. The AGA and our members are eager to lead in 2024 as we work to define the next era of responsible gambling.
In 2024, we can expect casinos of all sizes, commercial and tribal, to reinvest more heavily into their properties than in the past couple of years. There are two reasons for this: supply chain and competition.
First, the cumbersome global supply chain that has plagued all industries since the pandemic’s onset has largely returned to normal. This is enabling businesses of all types, including the casino industry, to finally pick up and run with projects that have been stalled. We have talked with customers who are finally able to secure cement for remodels, carpet for floor refreshes, new slots and other chip-driven technologies, and patron-facing apps that make it easier for patrons to interact with the property. It’s an exciting time to be on the starting line of that reinvestment.
Second, competition is demanding reinvestment. For example, in our host city of Las Vegas, a major locals casino and a major Strip casino both opened within days of each other and the shine of newness will require their competitors to reinvest to keep up with the Joneses.
As casinos look for capital to fuel these projects, the U.S. market is in a good lending position, as the Fed seems to be finished with rate hikes. Another option could be our Deposit+ solution that allows casinos to get provisional credit on the idle cash sitting in their slot machines.
In 2024, the gaming industry, especially Tribal gaming, will encounter the strongest headwind in rising labor costs. Since COVID, labor costs have risen significantly and many states have increased their minimum wages. It is common now to see labor expenses making up over 50% of the total expenses of a casino. Many casinos are still “drunk” on the improved margins during COVID and mistakenly believe they could keep running the operation with limited services, but as the pandemic becomes more distant in our past, casinos can no longer get away with offering extremely limited dining options or non-existent in-person services. But hiring, especially hiring and retaining great staff, has become unprecedentedly tough and expensive now. How to use technology to limit labor costs, while also making sure customers feel the personal touches and keeping the core staff stable and happy is the challenger that every casino will face in 2024.
I have been impressed with the digitization of the engagement casinos have had with their loyalty patrons. Penn Play’s launch in 2023 and the emphasis that Caesars and BetMGM have had on the integration of loyalty into online gaming will set the stage for an impressive 2024 for the land-based casino groups that can build loyalty programs that transcend their retail casinos.
Mobile apps, online registration, and gamification all lead to a digitization of loyalty programs that will be prevalent in the casino industry in 2024. While the casinos continue to be a hub of entertainment, they are asking for updated email addresses and mobile numbers to reach thousands of patrons and invite them back to the casino.
As 24% of the commercial gaming revenues are coming from online sports and casino, it is imperative for casinos to collect data on all social followers and uncarded patrons and build a deeper database of their players to reach them on email and mobile. The value of players that play with Rush Street Gaming on multiple channels is up to 14X vs. a single channel and BetMGM state omnichannel players are worth 3X vs. single-channel players.
Personalized engagement, offers, and invitations are the focal point for every other industry and only those casinos that can build a wide and deep database that allow for multiple touch points for casinos will win in the long run.
Supply chain will be a trend in 2024 and, thankfully, not in the way of the past few years. Instead, we can anticipate casinos to increase their demand for products and have their needs met by suppliers, because by and large, supply chains have returned to normal. Anecdotally, at Aristocrat Gaming, we have seen this demand and supply both uptick in the last few months of 2023 with a positive response to our latest innovations.
Supply-chain pressures have been steadily easing, allowing for more areas of growth across the entire casino operation and suppliers of all types have been able to rise to meet that demand. Specifically, from an Aristocrat perspective, we’re poised to meet customer demands better than ever globally with our integration centers in Barcelona, Spain; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Sydney, Australia. Those global centers underscore worldwide demand as the industry continues to grow.
The normalization of supply chains will also enable companies to chart courses for successful sustainability programs, such as Aristocrat’s. We’ve submitted our Science-Based Targets for Emissions reductions over the next 10 years and intention to be carbon neutral by 2050. Supply-chain stability will continue to enable the industry as a whole to restart these stalled goals, along with more immediate projects, such as redevelopment, that they were forced to put on hold.
One key trend that will shape responsible gaming efforts in 2024 is the widespread integration of advanced and machine-learning technologies within online gambling platforms. AI-driven tools and algorithms can analyze player behavior in real-time, identifying potential signs of problem gambling, such as excessive spending or patterns of risky play. Additionally, more technologies will continue to be implemented to improve player retention and the end-user experience.
On the responsible gaming front, operators will continue to demonstrate a strong stance on RG initiatives through the implementation of new technologies and programs. By offering support and resources to players at risk, including providing more robust informational materials or more dynamic self-exclusion programs, advancements will continue to be made.
Moreover, the industry is likely to see the implementation of more stringent regulations and responsible gaming measures, both at the national and international levels. Governments and regulatory authorities are expected to continue pushing guidelines that mandate operators to invest in responsible gaming initiatives, including robust player identification, problem-gambling identification, and self-exclusion programs.
Additionally, collaborations between online gambling operators and mental-health organizations are expected to become more commonplace. These partnerships will facilitate access to counseling and support services for individuals facing gambling-related issues.
Gambling affiliates will be an intriguing subplot in 2024. As legalization swept the country, affiliates largely flew under the regulatory radar, but five years post-PASPA repeal, their role in the funnel is better understood and coming under increasing scrutiny.
Advertising, a bucket affiliates fall into, is one of the biggest regulatory concerns. Regulators are also showing an increasing interest in the revenue-sharing model growing more common in the affiliate sector.
Affiliates had to fight for their lives in Massachusetts (where revenue-sharing deals were prohibited), fend off efforts to eliminate third-party marketing in New York, and are now staring down similar efforts in North Carolina.
Affiliates are also unnecessary components in monopoly and extremely limited-access markets, most notably Florida, but also states like Rhode Island, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.
And then there are the great unknowns. How will future legislation deal with marketing? Will lawmakers and regulators rein in advertising and what will that look like? Will bonuses and VIP programs become targets?
The recent formation of the Responsible Gambling Affiliate Association (RGAA) is a clear signal that affiliates have a growing concern with the current regulatory trajectory.
When we juxtapose the goals of the RGAA with the current climate, we start to see why the affiliate industry may have felt the need to create a unified lobbying front and fight for competitive (multi-operator) gambling markets and what the RGAA termed “sensible advertising regulation.”